CLEW talks to Luxembourgers abroad. Meet George Reuter, originally from Capellen, Luxembourg, now living in Eloy, Arizona.
1. When did you move away from Luxembourg, whereto and why?
I officially moved to sunny Arizona in the US of A in 2010. My wife is a US citizen and after one year in Luxembourg, she kinda’ was over our grand-ducal weather. Since she’s a professional skydiver, that was a big issue. Well, and I had no other choice than to follow her.
2. What do you miss the most and the least from Luxembourg?
Besides friends and family, I guess what I miss most is Luxlait’s Schokolasmellech, green Rosport, Simon’s beer, Namur’s strawberry ice cream and Paerdssteak. I miss my favorite chef, Eros. Food basically. Cooking is my passion and I love to go out and have good joints to eat everywhere. There’s less selection where we live (Eloy, AZ) which is a tiny town between Phoenix and Tucson, but within one hour drive, I can find pretty much everything.
I don’t miss the government trying to regulate every tiny bit that provides fun. I don’t miss the technical inspections at SNCT Sandweiler, the poor weather, the traffic jams (Phoenix metro has a 4,5 millions population and there is rarely any traffic jam), the aggressive drivers (especially Arlon-Luxembourg), the fact that a DUI makes it into the headlines of the national newspapers, the lack of parking space and all those problems Luxembourgers have that actually ain’t none!
3. What do you appreciate most and least about your new country?
Well, I love the fact that we have 360 days of sun, but seriously, I love the States because this country gives everyone a fair chance. If you miss it, well, you’re kinda’ screwed, but still you can get back on your feet. You just have to work for it by yourself. The government doesn’t just hand money out so you can screw the system.
I really love, and that is understated, the fact that at 40 (yep, I am), you’re still seen as a young guy, and all professional choices are open. In the late 90’s I joined, as a Luxembourger, the German federal police (BKA) and was a special unit operator for 14 years. The last 3 years I ended up being personal security expert for the european Secretary General, M. Solana, and President Van Rompuy, and wouldn’t have been able to come back to Luxembourg and work for my own country.
We moved to the States and now after 3 years and soon to be citizen (this summer), I can be a cop again. How awesome is that? They love to recruit adult and mature people and there’s no age limit. Well, there is, but lower – 21, or even 23 in some places. I plan on becoming a law enforcement officer this year, and finally be able to do the job as it is intended to do: With cowboy hat and spurs :-). (And a pistol, blink to my Polux friends.) Everything is possible here if you really want it. I mean, a young Luxembourger could become USAF fighter pilot if he finds a way to immigrate legally. Even astronaut. Or be a rancher, a NYFD member or whatever.
I love the fact that firefighters, cops and soldiers are regarded with the highest respect here. My brother in law is an Apache pilot, and in uniform people clap his back, thank him and pay him drinks. Europe should respect their servicemen way more. Every job for the community is way more respected. Even the sanitation or public work, guys get greeted all day long. I love the fact that people are proud of their country and willing to serve it.
I love the fact that the government doesn’t try to regulate every tiny bit of your life. If it doesn’t hurt anyone, it doesn’t need regulation. On the other hand they are very strict with criminals, cadgers and other people that try to mooch off society. That might sound crude, but be honest, don’t we all wish back home that it would be the same?
I love the gun laws here, the fact that you don’t need to go to SNCT, that it’s still 0,08 (even though I never drink and drive), that Harleys still sound like real Harleys and that I can have my name as a licence plate. I love the fact (no kidding) that the red lights are on the other side of the street so you don’t have to distort your cervical while waiting for the green light. They treat you more as an adult, but if you mess up, it will cost. Very simple.
I mean, I’m kind of kidding, but I mean it too. It’s not overregulated and that makes people feel free.
I don’t like that I had to change my whole wardrobe into shorts and flipflops. You see, I’m still in the honeymoon phase.
4. What was the biggest challenge / change for you moving to a different country?
Giving up my “public servant job” with all its advantages. I lost my pension, my career and my job security. In my job I was travelling and moving for years, so I had no big issues besides the above.
5. How often do you come back to Luxembourg and have you considered coming back for good?
I used to come back every two months to see my dad, but unfortunately he passed away early this year, so I’ll reduce it to 2 times a year. I plan to stay in the US. What could I do in Luxembourg anyway? I’ve got a degree and a bunch of experience, but Luxembourg’s public servants union is so powerful, that I wouldn’t have any chance working in the field that I’m good at. Besides, I would be “too old” anyway. That also applies to other people that would love to work in Luxembourg in the public service, but can’t because we don’t accept foreign degrees if they’re not complying with the old obsolete laws.
Luckily I have a lot of skydiving students from Luxembourg who bring me my favorite foods (except the horse meat).
6. In what other ways do you keep in touch with Luxembourg?
I listen to RTL (mostly Gerard Valerius and Benny Brown in the afternoon AZ time) per satellite radio at home, at work and in the car. I read online newspapers so I know what’s going on in the Hemecht. And of course Facebook helps to stay in touch. I mean, it’s 2014. There’s communications everywhere.
7. A shout out to (somebody in) Luxembourg?
There would be too many to list, but Betty Fontaine (Simon) should start exporting her beer to AZ, Xavier Bettel should come jump out of planes here (he did it with me already back home), Jean-Claude Juncker for inspiring me a lot in my choices (I’m from Capellen) and my friends (JeanPaul, Neuen, Gerard, Carlo, Petz & Kindy…) and my awesome brother Paul who hopefully will visit me soon (stop finding excuses)!
George Reuter, interviewed by Unni Holtedahl, June 2014